Greek Health Workers Protest Government Austerity

Posted March 21st, 2012 at 9:25 am (UTC-5)
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Greek health workers are disrupting state hospital services in a renewed protest against the government's austerity measures and delays in receiving their paychecks.

Doctors and staff walked off the job for several hours Wednesday and engaged in a work slowdown. They demanded that the government pay them for their overtime work from the last four months. The health care workers also protested spending cuts the government has imposed in order to secure a new $171 billion international bailout and debt relief from the country's private creditors.

One physician, Fotis Vlastos, said the workers needed to protect their livelihood against the government plans.

“So they want to close the wards. They want to close the clinics. They want to throw out the doctors and the rest of the personnel in the hospital. So we have to fight and remain as we were during the whole century.”

A nurse, Vicki Tsitsi, said Greece's public health care system is deteriorating with the spending cuts.

“I don't know where the patients are going to go. Are they going to go to the private hospitals? Do the people have money to pay for the private hospitals? Our health system is going from bad to worse.”

The renewed protest came as Greece is headed toward a national election, expected to be called for late April or early May. A new government would replace caretaker Prime Minister Lucas Papademos, the technocrat who oversaw months of Greece's negotiations with its international creditors to secure new financing so the Athens government could avoid defaulting on its obligations.

His finance minister, Evangelos Venizelos, resigned his post earlier this week to lead the socialist party in the upcoming election, but Greek opinion surveys show voters widely favor a conservative party takeover of the government. Papademos on Wednesday promoted deputy finance minister Philippos Sachinidis to be the new finance chief.